How can diet offset the genetic risk of age-related eye disease?

About 30 percent of white adults over the age of 75 suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) . Nonwhites are not as prone to AMD. Clearly, having a genetic propensity for diseases like AMD and cataracts increases the risk of early onset of these diseases when superimposed on an environment that initiates, promotes or progresses their development.

Although no food will directly improve your vision, consuming certain foods on a regular basis promotes optimal vision and can help prevent or slow the progression of AMD and cataracts, the two leading causes of vision loss. For example, a study published in 2002 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the odds for getting cataracts among nonsmoking women decreased as the level of dietary antioxidants, including vitamin C and carotenoids, increased. Thus, consuming carotenoid-rich foods may help protect against AMD and cataracts. Concerning omega-3 fatty acids and eye disease, a recent meta-analysis concluded that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids was linked to a 38 percent reduction in late AMD. Consuming fish twice per week reduced the risk of developing early and late AMD . However, these authors cautioned that without more rigid prospective or clinical trials, these findings are premature.

Obesity is a factor in the growing rate of eye disease—as is the simple fact that people are living longer. Most serious eye ailments have a genetic component as well. But still, there’s plenty you can do to protect your eyesight, including being vigilant about proper nutrition. The American Optometric Association (AOA ) lists vitamins B2, C and E, as well as beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin among the most essential eye-healthy nutrients.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.